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Working Paper, No. 2020-15, May 2020 Crossref
Heterogeneity in the Marginal Propensity to Consume: Evidence from Covid-19 Stimulus Payments (REVISED February 2021)

We identify 22,461 recipients of Covid-19 Economic Impact Payments in anonymized transaction-level bank account data from Facteus. We use an event study framework to show that in the two weeks following a $1,200 stimulus payment in April 2020, consumers increased spending by $546, implying a marginal propensity to consume of 46%. Consumers used an additional 10% of the stimulus payment to pay off debt. Consumer spending fell to normal levels after two weeks. Stimulus recipients who live paycheck-to-paycheck spent 60% of the stimulus payment within two weeks, while recipients who save much of their monthly income spent only 24% of the stimulus payment within two weeks. Spending patterns are quite similar for the second round of stimulus payments in January, 2021, with consumers spending 39% of their stimulus payments within two weeks and using an additional 14% of their payment to pay off debt. Reweighting our data to match the U.S. population, ignoring equilibrium effects, and assuming a constant MPC for each person, we estimate that the CARES Act’s $296 billion of stimulus payments increased consumer spending by $130 billion (44% of total outlays) within two weeks of stimulus receipt. A stimulus bill targeted at individuals with the highest MPCs could have increased consumer spending and debt payments by the same amount at a cost of only $246 billion.


Working papers are not edited, and all opinions and errors are the responsibility of the author(s). The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago or the Federal Reserve System.

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